Successful Stepparenting - Blending Can Bring Mending
It has been estimated that, before their seventeenth birthday, more than one in twenty children in the UK would live in a formalized step-family where one parent (usually their mother) has remarried, and over one in fourteen children would live in an informal "step-family" where their mother is living with someone who has neither a biological nor a legal tie to her child. In view of these statistics, we should look at how parenting other people's children differ from parenting one's own. A leading family authority has stated that the role of a stepparent is five times more difficult than that faced by other parents. It may not always be that difficult, but stepparents do face a challenging job.
First, you will need to settle on what you should expect from the child. Both the parent and the stepparent must get their act together first so that their expectations coincide. Otherwise, they're in for chaos. Once agreed, then both parents together should discuss the matter with the youngster so that he clearly recognizes that the stepparent has become a permanent member of the team.
A stepmother particularly needs her husband's support. As the newcomer into an already formed relationship, she is usually viewed as both an intruder and a rescuer. If the father is so passive or weak that he allows the stepmother to take the initiative, the child will deeply resent it. In addition, the stepmother will probably feel completely overwhelmed by the complex problems she must confront, and many critical situations may become deeply rooted in the first few months of the relationship.
Even though everyone involved may have discussed behavior expectations prior to marriage, parents can count on opposition from the children. Each stepchild will test and retest the limits of any new relationship or situation. Please note: The stepparent's response to the testing will determine how long the testing will go on. Hence, the sooner the stepparent makes his presence felt and shows that he is there to stay, the sooner the child will accept the new situation.
Stepparents should mentally prepare themselves, in most cases, for initial feelings of resentment. The younger the child, the easier he will adjust to the stepparent. However, most stepparents are not sufficiently fortunate to take on this responsibility early enough so that the child can become a part of them. Instead they must work with the child after his character and personality have more or less solidified. Even when an older child does feel love towards a stepparent, he is usually less likely to verbalize it or to show it openly.
If you are a stepparent, be prepared for the mountains ahead. Don't expect instant love from the child. Remember that the child has already sustained a great loss through death or divorce. Because he has just come through a devastating emotional drought, he is extremely vulnerable to hurt. As a result he may frequently behave worse than he normally would. The stepparent often misinterprets such misbehavior and assumes that the child has rejected him, but this is not necessarily the case. The stepchild who only visits on occasion may never feel any "love" in the real sense of the word for the stepparent. Someone has suggested that a stepparent strike the word love from his vocabulary. Instead it might be better if the stepparent and child formed a relationship of respect that might lead in time to something warmer and deeper.